OF all Indian festivals, Diwali is perhaps the one most closely associated with sweets. Kheer is offered to Mahalaxmi, consort of Lord Vishnu, the goddess of prosperity and riches. Till a few years back, assorted sweets like pua, laddoo and shakarpare were cooked at home to be shared with extended family and friends. Times have changed and Diwali gift packs nowadays have juices, chips, namkeens and mass-produced barfi, kaju katli, etc. But nothing can compare with the joy of tasting and sharing home-made delicacies.
Not so long ago, we were treated to a sweet that we thought had become extinct — adrak ka halwa. It celebrates the warmth of ginger, considered beneficial for winters. The rhizome has a refreshing zing, a pleasant taste that tickles the palate in myriad avatars from ginger nut biscuits, ginger ale, candied ginger to ginger pickle.
Adrak ka halwa has a variety of recipes — most go heavy on fillers like mawa, khajoor, roasted atta and even eggs. What we bring for our readers is a simplified, less heavy rendering of the Rampur classic, given a new lease of life by Tarana Husein Khan in the recently published ‘Forgotten Foods’. We have reduced the quantity of ghee, sugar and khoya drastically. But the halwa still scores 10/10.
The season of feasting that begins with Durga Puja continues till Diwali and well beyond. It is a treat for food lovers but there is an occasional pang of yearning as most of the fare is satvik (vegetarian). Those who are addicted to non-plant-based proteins try to make up for lost time as soon as they can. At the same time, one doesn’t wish to order or cook at home dishes that have jaded the palate. This was the reason we were reminded of another long-forgotten culinary gem.
Long ago, Professor Sahani, who taught history at Khalsa College, Delhi, spent a few summer weeks with us in Bhowali near Nainital. He was a delightful guest and endeared himself to our mother by volunteering to cook a main course dish every day. His recipes were simple but full of taste. It was he who introduced us to nimbu gosht and dahi murg. The dahi murg became the favourite of family and friends. We are very happy to share this recipe too, though the original has been tweaked a little to suit the winter by adding a touch of fenugreek. Some of our friends also like to cook kali mirch ka murg. It uses a lot of dahi and retains a pleasant white complexion, though a good measure of black peppercorns are incorporated.
The dish is done when the fat separates. Do not worry about the ‘excess’ of fat though. Remember, you have used only a small quantity of oil to prepare this dish and the fat that is visible is the contribution of dahi. Check seasoning and add salt to taste. Crumble kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) between your fingers and sprinkle all over.
Dahi wala murg can be relished with phulka, parantha or rice. One last word of caution though — resist the temptation to add water to the dish to stretch the gravy’s quantity. This will only ruin the flavour and the taste.
- Chicken 900 gm
- Curds (whisked) 400 ml
- Onions (medium size) 2
- Garlic-ginger paste 1 tsp
- Green chilli paste 1 tsp
- (after deseeding chillies)
- Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
- Cumin powder 1 tsp
- Coriander powder 2 tsp
- Black peppercorn powder 1/4 tsp
- Fenugreek seeds 1/2 tsp
- Kasoori methi (dry) 1 tsp
- Salt To taste
- Oil 1/3 cup
- Cut chicken into eight to 10 pieces. Trim, wash well and pat dry. Peel onions, cut into halves and slice lengthwise with a sharp knife. Prepare a marinade in a large bowl mixing all the ingredients, along with salt, except onions, fenugreek seeds and kasoori methi. Place the chicken pieces in this marinade and massage each piece well with it. Keep aside for at least two hours, the longer the better.
- Heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan. When it reaches smoking point, add fenugreek seeds. Stir well, reduce heat to medium. As the fenugreek seeds change colour, add sliced onions. Stir fry till onions become translucent. Take care that they do not turn brown or even rich golden otherwise the dish will not be attractively white. At this stage, add the chicken pieces to the pot, along with the marinade. Mix well and cook on medium heat till excess water evaporates. Stir continuously, otherwise the curd may curdle. You should take care that the chicken is also not fried till it changes colour.
If it has been marinated well, it will remain succulent even when cooked properly. Cover and cook on low medium heat for about 10 minutes. Uncover in-between and stir to ensure that the chicken does not stick to the bottom.
Adrak ka halwa
- Ginger 350 g
- Milk 1 litre
- Sugar 250 g
- Dried ginger powder 1 tsp
- Green cardamom seeds
- (crushed slightly in mortar) 1 tsp
- Pistachios (slivered) 1 tsp
- Almonds (slivered) 1 tsp
- Kewra water 1 tsp
- Ghee 1/3 cup
- A few strands of saffron
- Put milk in a pot, bring it to boil, then reduce flame to medium low and keep boiling till it is reduced to almost one-third of the original volume. In another pot, mix sugar with equal quantity of water and boil, stirring continuously to obtain a one-string chashni. Soak the saffron in kewra water.
- Peel and grate ginger. Boil in water to soften a little. Grind in a blender with some water to obtain a smooth paste. Heat half the ghee in a pan and stir fry ginger paste on medium flame for about a minute-and-a- half. Sprinkle dried ginger powder and green cardamom seeds.
- Add the fried ginger paste to the reduced milk. Pour sugar syrup (chashni) evenly over this mixture. Reduce flame to low medium and keep stirring till the halwa is of desired consistency. To avoid sticking to the bottom, stir continuously and add the remaining ghee, and if required, a few spoonfuls of milk.
Garnish with saffron soaked in kewra water and cover. Uncover just before serving.
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